Royal Thunder – Red Fire Empress: Live at Boston Music Rooms (London)

There must be something in the water in Georgia. Baroness, Black Tusk, Mastodon, Kylesa (Editor’s note: RIP), and Whores. all hail from the Peach State. As do tonight’s headliners, Royal Thunder, who are playing the Boston Music Rooms in London. And like fellow Atlantans, Mastodon, they’re a band that should be a on a major label and breaking through into mainstream consciousness.

Support comes from UK rock outfit Red Fire Empress. The five-piece balance Kyuss-like jams with a direct punk energy that gets a warm if not rapturous welcome from the audience. Frontwoman Jennifer Diehl can sing, croon, and scream her way through a song, and overall it’s easy to see this band getting a higher profile in the near future.

In Wick (Relapse) Royal Thunder have produced on the best albums of the year; a balance of classic rock with heart, it’s a near-perfectly crafted release that feels timeless. Tonight sees them give a raw, emotionally charged performance lead by the husky-voiced Mlny Parsonz.

There’s very little in the way of performance. Aside from the odd thank you between songs, there’s little in the way of audience hype. The band prefers to just play and let the quality speak for itself. Songs like ‘Burning Tree’ and ‘April Showers’, plus older numbers such as ‘Time Machine’ could have been heard supporting the likes of Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac back in the 1970s or released last week and sound equally fresh.

While only three albums and couple of EP’s into their career, there’s a great balance in the material. Older, more guitar-focused cuts equal out the newer, more vocal and accessible songs, which leaves room for both headbanging and singalongs. Assuming you can match Parsonz’ vocal range, that is.

New cut ‘Sinking Chair’ is a set highlight, along with the epic ‘Parsonz Curse’, but there’s not a dull or dud moment. Even though the set is well over an hour, it feels over in a flash. There’s little doubt they could have played the rest of their back catalogue and still had the audience wanting more. ‘Plans’ sees Parsons and Will Fiore wind things down with just a guitar and the power of Parson’s voice.

Easily one of the best gigs of the year.

Which just begs the question: why are Royal Thunder only playing the Boston Music Rooms? They should be selling out venues like the Hammersmith Apollo and Brixton Academy. These guys are too good and too special to be kept hidden away in Tufnell Park. As special as tonight was, if there’s any justice in the world they’ll never play such a small venue in London again.

DAN SWINHOE